It is a pleasure to open the line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. This room has rather less comfortable chairs and rather more mind-blowing wallpaper but definitely better acoustics than the room that we were in for the evidence sessions. I think that we discovered through the evidence sessions that there are deep and passionate disagreements between the different parties on the measures in the Bill, but equally I hope that we discovered that both sides are prepared to argue their points courteously and respectfully, and we will all part, I hope, as friends and colleagues at the end of it.
Clause 1 sets out that references in the Bill to “the 1992 Act” are references to the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. The Bill largely amends or inserts new provisions in the 1992 Act. This clause enables the shorthand form to be used throughout the Bill, and I commend it to the Committee.
Sir Edward, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship in this room with the rest of the Committee; it is a pleasure to serve opposite the Minister and alongside many hon. Friends. I agree with the Minister that we had a lively start to consideration of the Bill during the oral evidence sessions. Fundamentally, I think that Opposition Members have explored how the Bill belies its stated intent. It is partisan. It challenges long-standing civil liberties in this country. It is poorly drafted, with significant legal implications.
Given that we are discussing clause 1, which relates to the 1992 Act—previous legislation—it is important to see the Bill in context: essentially, it is a Bill without a purpose. We heard on Second Reading, most notably from my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) that given the significant reduction in industrial action over the past 30 years, it is important to question why the Bill even exists in the first place. That reduction is borne out by the statistics; the number of days lost to industrial action each year has fallen dramatically. Since 2010, on average, 647,000 days have been lost, compared with 7,213,000 lost in the 1980s. There is no problem here and the Bill goes well beyond the realms of sense in challenging the long-standing right of workers up and down this country to stand up for their rights. We heard aptly from a number of witnesses that they see many objections to the Bill. The Government are struggling to find supporters to back it up.
I declare my interest—and I am sure that other hon. Members will do the same—as a member of the GMB union and draw attention also to my declaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Let me be clear from the outset: we intend to oppose every clause, because we consider the Bill an affront to civil liberties and the rights of workers up and down the country, and do so starting with this clause.